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Teaching was finalist's lifelong goal

Posted: September 19, 2015 - 11:21pm  |  Updated: September 21, 2015 - 12:46pm
Westmont Elementary School second-grade teacher Jenna Gurley discusses the topic of exaggeration in the story of Johnny Appleseed.   Photo by Jim Blaylock
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Westmont Elementary School second-grade teacher Jenna Gurley discusses the topic of exaggeration in the story of Johnny Appleseed.

 

Jenna Gurley’s childhood photo albums allude to the fact that she would one day become a teacher. In fact, when Gurley began pursuing a teaching degree as soon as she entered college, no one was surprised by it.

“I never wavered in my desire to be a teacher,” said Gurley, who is a fourth-year second grade teacher at Westmont Elementary School and one of five finalists for the Columbia County Teacher of the Year. “I just really love school. I enjoy going to school and I enjoy all the
parts of school.”

For Gurley, who has taught second grade for the past 11 years, school is a place where knowledge is imparted, hopes and dreams are fueled and encouragement is given. School, quite simply, is her
passion.

“I have a huge passion for learning and I want my students to have that same passion,” said Gurley, who previously taught in Atlanta before joining the staff at Westmont. “I love teaching kids how to read and what to do with reading and how to work through math problems.”

Gurley isn’t just a teacher; she’s also a student. She’s currently working toward the completion of her master’s in education, with plans to graduate in May 2016. She then plans to obtain her specialist degree and later a doctorate in education.

“I really love second grade and I’m not ready to leave the classroom yet, not at all,” said Gurley. “But one day I’d like to teach at the university level and inspire new teachers.”

Gurley has already inspired new teachers.

In fact, last year her team included two new teachers to the school; one was a first-year teacher. She took them under her wing and mentored them throughout the year.

“Mrs. Gurley’s peers describe her as creative, willing to share her ideas and lessons, and going above and beyond for the school and her students,” said Tami Flowers, the principal at Westmont Elementary School. “Jenna is enthusiastic not just about teaching, but about learning. We celebrate Mrs. Gurley’s dedication and inspiration as one of the best in our profession!”

Gurley says the recognition as her school’s teacher of the year and then as a finalist for the county teacher of the year are honors that she truly treasures.

“This is the third county I’ve taught in,” said the mother of two. “Columbia County is a really great county. It’s so great to be able to teach here. Being named teacher of the year and then a finalist is a huge honor. Teachers have kind of a thankless job and for others to recognize my core beliefs and values as a teacher means a lot
to me.”

The announcement for the county teacher of the year will be made Oct. 8 at an awards banquet for all teachers of the year. As that date approaches, Gurley is eagerly awaiting the selection committee’s decision. Should she be named the Columbia County Teacher of the Year for 2015, Gurley hopes to use her position to talk to influential people about her profession.

“There are a million things you could complain about, but at the end of the day, it’s about our students and being in the classroom,” she said. “I want to change people’s opinions about teachers.”

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